Not All Who Wander are Lost: Packing List for Heaven

I’m a self-declared lover of travel.  It could be one town over, the next State, or another country.  I love exploring new location, eating the local food, and meeting people who live in those destinations.  I have wanderlust and am most content planning the next trip. 

I completely embrace the quote “Not all who wander are lost.” 

One of the things I enjoy about traveling is the preparation.  I love the planning and researching to make the most of a vacation.  If it hasn’t been selected for me, I choose the location, the amount of time to travel, and the mode of transportation.  I make lists of foodie-related places to check out.  I figure out the historic or notable attractions to explore.  I game plan if I have any friends or family in the vacation location.  I count down to the departure date.  And then I pack.

Preparing for your vacation is similar to preparing for a journey to heaven.  Like a vacation destination selection, you must make the decision of if heaven is a location you’d like to go.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (NASB) 

You must accept the gift of Jesus’ death for your sins, which essentially becomes the selection of your transportation.  The difference between an earthy vacation and a journey to heaven is that Jesus paid the price of the ticket for you to go to heaven.  Only Christ’s blood is a sufficient payment for this particular trip.  

Like earthly vacation research, our preparation for heaven does not end with choosing the destination and transportation.   No, we still have work to do.  Once we become Christians, our entire life should be focused on the journey and preparations that God has for our lives.  This could include Bible study, mission work, sharing the Gospel, tithing, holy living and even attending church faithfully.  

Are you a traveler?  

Are you going to heaven?

Have you started packing?

~Emily

For we know that if our earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made by hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Corinthians 5:1 (NASB)

A December Spelling Bee: “Jesus, J-E-S-U-S, Jesus”

My fourth grader made it into the finals at his elementary school spelling bee, which meant we were studying a lengthy list of spelling words for the first few weeks of December.  Words were given at random times, such as waiting in check-out lines, while driving to the dentist, and through the phone.  Erin was also recruited to help testing spelling words.

I’ll be honest, the words started blurring together over the days of helping prepare for the spelling competition.  We started getting creative and silly with the process.  If Kambell said he was hungry, I’d start to give him food related words that weren’t even on the list.  If I started a to-do list, he would start spelling items that needed to be on the list.  We spelled animals, neighbor names, places we’d like to travel…anything was fair game for spelling.

And then one morning my son suggested we spell Christmas words.  I started by giving him the word “Present” followed by the word “Candy-cane.”  He said the word, spelled the word, then repeated the word in both instances.  As I was thinking about the next word he looked at me and said, “I was thinking more of Christmas words like Jesus, Manger or Bethlehem.” 

It’s at this point that the judgey-side-eyes should be headed my way.  

In the midst of strange COVID related 2020 shenanigans, I was not focused on the truest meaning of Christmas.  It took a 9-year-old to remind me.  For real, y’all! My son straight schooled me on which words should be the true Christmas words!!!

It took that conversation to re-focus me on the intent of this season.  The remembrance of the birth of our Savior. The truest and most precious gift ever given to any of us by our Lord.  Give yourself the gift of remembering why we celebrate Christmas and share that gift with those around you who may not know Christ. 

I pray that in the next couple days leading to Christmas 2020, you are able to have time to reflect on that gift and what it means in your life. I’m praying we see a mighty movement of new believers as a result of the sharing of the Gospel.  And I’m praying health and wellness for all of the Iron Porch family.

Merry Christmas!

~Emily

John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”


Serving at Christmas: And Beyond the Holidays

During the Christmas season, we have a unique opportunity to build our own leadership skills while teaching others how to serve. Repeatedly throughout scripture, we see that Jesus used everyday circumstances to train his disciples (and us) how to serve and minister to others.  An example that immediately comes to mind is when Jesus feeds five thousand.  In John 6:1-13, notice all the times that Jesus had his disciples minister to the people. 

While conducting the miracle of feeding so many, Jesus taught others about ministry and serving.  He was modeling intentional relationship building with others.  He provided first hand experiences of how to minister…and what the rewards would be when service happens.  While Jesus showed us how to do this daily, we can use the holidays as a mechanism to “jump start” serving and ministry.

Often the holiday season becomes a time where serving is routine.  Without too much thought, we toss some change into a red kettle.  Perhaps we bring extra canned goods for the entrance to a craft fair.  We purchase small items for a shoebox ministry.  We take an angel tree tag and purchase a toy for a child.  

I’m not discounting those tasks as bad.  All of those are good things to do.  I am pointing out that they can become routine and we don’t pause to think or pray about the why…or the who…is behind these acts of service. I’m suggesting that before we toss change into the pot or purchase a toy for a stranger that we stop to pray.  Pray over why we are giving and pray over who will be receiving. 

I would also propose that we need to encourage others in serving during the Christmas season.  Jesus brought the disciples alongside him while He fed the 5000.  Why? Because it was a first-hand opportunity to learn how to serve effectively. 

– If you already serve in a ministry, ask someone to serve alongside of you.  This is a chance to ask those who are not typically involved to step out of their own comfort zones.  It may create relationships that develop into other serving opportunities. 

– If there isn’t an opportunity within ministry organizations, ask someone to come to a volunteer project outside of the church.  It could be as simple as writing letters to nursing home residents, or supervising a children’s event or doing yard work for those who need help.

– If you have children you are leading, brainstorm ideas with them of how to begin serving at Christmas and how that can continue into the new year.  Maybe your kids want to volunteer at the food bank for Christmas week and that evolves into a weekly or monthly volunteer project.

Once you’ve invited someone to serve with you, a scenario is created where they are empowered to continue serving on their own.  It requires that you are an intentional leader in assisting others in serving.  In the next few weeks, look for Christmas opportunities to encourage others to serve…and encourage service past the holidays.

~Emily

P.S. I’m so encouraged by the women of my church who chose to forgo a typical Christmas party this year to focus on raising awareness for The Elmore County Pregnancy Resource Center, Isaiah 58 Ministry, The Backpack Ministry, as well as writing Christmas cards for Nursing Home residents and deployed military members…they truly modeled Jesus’ behavior in serving others this season!

My Dog Is So Brave

Every morning between 4-6 am, my 10-month-old lab stands by the front door and hits the bells with his nose indicating he would like to go potty.  Every morning, I open the door to the complete darkness of early morning and he just stands there for a few seconds sniffing the air.  Once his sniffer assesses the air, he trots out to do his business.

He is so brave.

Nearly every morning I think about just how brave he is.  I certainly don’t want to step out into the darkness every morning to relieve myself.  We live in the country…do you have any idea what types of critters are hanging out around our house?!?!?!  There could be racoons, opossums, coyotes, spiders…lions…tigers…bears!!!!  Not to mention the bad guy or the zombie that could leap out of the woods!!!

He sniffs the air and then proceeds about his task.  He’s brave.

I want that type of bravery in regards to sharing the Gospel.  I want to “sniff the air” and proceed with telling people about Jesus.  However, more often than not, I allow my fear of the “critters in the yard” to dissuade me from stepping out into the darkness.  

In John 20:21 (NASB), we read, So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be to you; just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”  In this passage, there is clear direction that He is specifically sending us to share the good news.  

Furthermore, He tells us in Matthew 4:19 that once we choose to follow Him, we will be made as fishers of men.  There is a task associated with being a Christ-follower…and that task includes sharing the gospel.  

From a knowledge perspective, I understand this.  I know the scripture, I know my responsibility in relation to this task, and I know how I should proceed.  The issue comes into play when I allow the fear of rejection or judgement of man to overshadow the need to proclaim Jesus as my Savior.  In order to combat this fear, I am committing to memorizing and implementing Romans 1:16 (ESV) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

This next week I plan to be brave, like my puppy.  I will sniff the air and then proceed out the door to proclaim the Gospel and what Jesus has done in my life.  Will you join me?

~Emily

Expiration Dates

There I was standing in the shower with lathered suds sliding down my arm when I noticed my shampoo bottle from a different angle.  It was as though I was seeing the bottle for the first time in my life.  I noticed a detail that had escaped my observation for all of my life.

Did you know that shampoo has an expiration date?  Seriously, there’s an expiration date on my bottle of shampoo!

That got me thinking what else could be expiring? I know milk and eggs can expire but does toothpaste? Oh, my goodness, does chocolate?!?!?!

What doesn’t expire? Well, when properly stored, there seems to be a few items that will theoretically last forever. Honey. Salt. Sugar. Rice. Pure Maple Syrup. Dried Beans.

You know what else doesn’t have an expiration date?  God’s love.

Before, now, and always…God has loved each and every one of us.  He truly loves us and wants each one of us in heaven with Him.  The only caveat is that we have to accept His gift.

It’s crazy to think about how God loves us so completely that He not only sent his Son to show us how to love and live, but that He also allowed that Son to be used as a sacrifice to cover our sins.  Most of us learned John 3:16 as one of our first memorization verses.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16 (NASB)

Unlike my shampoo, God has offered a gift of eternal salvation that only expires when you don’t accept the gift.  God literally allowed His Son to be our ticket to eternity…all without an expiration date!

If you haven’t already accepted the gift of salvation, consider today as the day you change your life and put your life in Jesus Christ as your personal savior!  Contact the Iron Porch if you have questions about how to commit your life to Christ!

~Emily

Shampoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You a Consumer Or A Follower?

I mark up my bible.  I’m one of those women that highlights, makes notes, and writes the day that I heard something profound for my life from the pastor.  I was taught to do it and saw it modeled from the time I was a little girl.  It doesn’t make my bible more special than someone else’s, but it does allow me to see what I’ve learned in my journey with God and shows my children that journey, as well.

Recently, I was reading through John and I came across one of those notes.  In this particular note, I didn’t mark who preached about it, but the thought intrigued me and I wrote it down.  In John 6:1-13, he tells the story of being with the disciples and feeding thousands with just five loaves of bread and two fish.  In the middle portion of the scripture (verses 14-65), John goes on to talk of Jesus walking on the water and then Jesus speaking to the crowds about how He is the Bread of Life.  At that point, the bible says that many disciples left.  But a few stayed…THE disciples.  In verses 68-69, Simon Peter (having been asked if they want to leave as well) says to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have words of eternal life.  We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.

The first series of verses show the consumers of the gospel, but the last part of the verses show the followers of the gospel!  What a profound way to look at this.

In the beginning, we’re all consumers.  We don’t know Jesus, but maybe we check out a bible-believing church because we’re curious.  Possibly a neighbor or a friend talks to us about having salvation.  Any way we find out about Jesus, we are consumers of His word.   But what we DO with that is up to us.  We can continue to be consumers, going to a church and hearing the Word or listening to Christian music or reading a devotion, but never really digging in and fully committing to Christ.  Or we can be followers of the gospel, dedicated to following His commands and reaching out to others in service and discipleship.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be just a consumer.  I want to be a true follower!  Join me today in making the commitment to letting go of a consumer lifestyle when it comes to Jesus and instead becoming a follower of Jesus.

~Erin

He Knows Your Name

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a talker.  I’m a people person and I love getting to know someone’s story.  And I’ve written before about my hobby job.  (For those who don’t know, I work from home in California for the hospital in my hometown.  And BECAUSE I’m a talker, I went and got a small part time job at Boudin here in Roseville so that I could be around people!)

One of my favorite things about this job is learning our regular guests’ names when they come in to get their lunch.  I love to remember who they are and what they usually order!  They’ll laugh when I tell them they’re throwing me off by buying something different.  Sometimes, their eyes light up and get excited when I ask them how newly married life is or how their son is doing in football this season.  It just makes me happy to connect to someone.

I know this probably feels like a lot of back story, but indulge me!  I have a guest who comes in every week after ordering online and just tells me her name, takes her bag from me and leaves.  She’s pleasant but I haven’t had a chance to really talk to her.  I have, however, gotten to know who she is by name.  The last few times she’s come in I’ve said, “Hey, Debbie!  How’s it going,” repeated her order to her and told her to have a great day.

Last week, she didn’t just say ‘thank you’ and leave the counter.  She stopped and said this to me, “Erin, it amazes me that you know me just by seeing me when I walk in.  You make me feel so special that you know who I am!  You just made my day!”  It was a great feeling for me to know she felt that way!

God sees us too.  In John 10:3, Jesus say, “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”  He goes on to say in verse 14, “I am the good shepherd, I know My own and My own know Me.

He knows who we are.  Sometimes, we feel as if we’re just existing in this world.  Everyday life comes at us, sometimes good and sometimes bad.  Maybe you feel as if you’re unnoticed and alone.  Perhaps you feel unworthy.  I’m here to tell you that you are not an afterthought to our Heavenly Father.  You are known and you are loved.  He knows your name.  He knows your heart and your hurts.  You are His.  And you are special.

~Erin

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I love my job!

“I Know”

“Make sure you wash your hair in the shower.” ~Mom-Me

“I know.” ~My 8-year-old

“Today’s the day you need to turn in your globe project at school.” ~Mom-Me

“I know.” ~My 8-year-old.

If I said, “Neil Armstrong did Michael Jackson’s moon-walk while defending Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and discussing Thomas Edison’s impact on the death penalty in 2019, my son would say ‘I know.’”

It’s enough to drive a mother crazy!

How many of us ask God for guidance and then tell Him “I know”?  I’d venture to guess that most of us have told our Heavenly Father “I know” on several occasions. In fact, I’d argue there are two different types of “I know” that we tell God.

The first is similar to what our children say.  “I know” implies, I already have that information and you aren’t sharing anything new with me.  Often in human form, it is accompanied by an eye roll or heavy sigh.  An example of this is when God gives us a nudge, usually in regards to something we are doing that is displeasing to Him, and we reply with the “I know.”  For example, you are harboring unforgiveness towards someone for a perceived slight.  You feel convicted, as though you should reach out to that person.  You respond with the “I know, I know.  I should speak to this person and offer forgiveness. But….

This type of “I Know” does not always include action.  In fact, sometimes, this “I know” isn’t really acknowledging knowledge at all.  Rather, it’s a phrase to make the other person feel like you agree with them.  News flash: God knows you don’t really know…just like a mother knows that about her child.

The second “I know” comes with an exclamation point and often a bit of emphasis that indicates that we’ve just figured out the solution to a perplexing issue.  Essentially it’s the EUREKA of the “I know” world. An example of this is when we ask God’s guidance on a situation but then we implement our own solution with an “I know…I’ll do this or that.”

This type of “I Know!” often includes making a bigger mess.  We haven’t waited on God, but rather try to solve issues on our own. News flash: We tend to mess things up more with our tracts of solutions.

Whether we are answering “I know” to something He’s asked of us, or we say “I know!” like we’ve come up with our own answer to prayer requests, we are not honoring God or our parents with our know-it-all attitude.

A look at Scripture reveals that one of the best ways to determine if God is telling us to do something is to see if it is consistent with God’s teachings.  John 16:13 teaches, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” In other words, God’s Spirit will only guide you to do things that are consistent with what God has already taught as truth.

Another way to know when God is telling you to do something is through prayer.   James 1:5 states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” If we are uncertain, we are to pray and ask for wisdom from God.

Rather than thinking you know, seek the Lord through scripture or through prayer.  If God’s Word is consistent with where you are being led and your prayers appear to confirm that leading, then maybe God is revealing a course of action for you…one that you don’t know about.

~Emily

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Trivia: Did you know?

Did you know that Ruth was King David’s Great-Grandmother?!?!?

Ruth, as in ‘Where you go, I’ll go…’ Ruth.  She’s the one.  The one who was the Great-Grandma to King David. KING DAVID!!! Did she read to toddler-King David on her lap?  Tell him to ‘go get a switch’ when he was naughty?  Did she sing to him?  Present him with horribly handmade sweaters?  Why am I the only one who is freaking out about this genealogy nugget?

I figured this out while remotely completing a Ruth Bible study with Erin and the Table 8 ladies. It was early morning. I read the daily passage.  I answered the questions.  And then…I started outlining Ruth’s lineage.  I sat in shock and then quickly shot off a text to Erin about my discovery. With different time zones, early morning revelations in Alabama translate to middle of the night texts in California. I can only imagine that Erin was giggling and shaking her head at my excitement over this shocking discovery. Apparently, this Ruth-David connection is common knowledge.  Where the heck have I been?

While ecstatic about this newfound knowledge, it made me think about other connections throughout the Bible that I had possibly missed.  I started researching some trivia and unusual occurrences within the Bible.  Have you missed some too?

Did you know?

-Ehud was the 1stleft-handed man mentioned in the Bible (Judges 3:15)

-Dogs are mentioned 41 times in the Bible, but cats aren’t even mentioned once.

-Job stated that his wife claimed he had bad breath. (Job 19:17)

-Genesis never says Adam and Eve ate an apple, only that they ate fruit.

-Andrew was a disciple of John The Baptist before following Jesus. (John 1:35-37, 40)

-David is second only to Jesus in number of times mentioned in the Bible.

-Elizabeth, mother of John The Baptist, was a descendant of Aaron (Luke 1:5) and John The Baptist was Jesus’ cousin. (Luke 1:36)

-Miriam is the 1st woman recorded singing in the Bible (Exodus 15:21)

-Prior to the incident at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), everyone spoke the same language.

I already knew some of these, such as the relationship between Jesus and John The Baptist.  Their relationship is often mentioned around Christmas when retelling of Elizabeth and Mary meeting, while both were pregnant. I knew that at some point all humans spoke the same language, but I didn’t know it was the incident at the Tower of Babel that changed our languages.

This book we study, the Word of God, it is filled with wondrous facts and illustrations of relationships.  None of them are coincidences and all of them are divinely God’s plan.  I love stumbling on these bits and pieces that are so perfectly overlapping.  It makes me love the written word of God even more than I had previously.  It makes me want to read more…study more…find more curiosities that I had previously missed.  Who else is the great-grandparent to a notorious Bible figure?!?!?

Come to the porch and share something from the Bible that you have previously missed…I’m super intrigued!

~Emily